""To everything … there is a season. My two passions - farming and football - both revolve around seasons. I am blessed to be involved as a fifth-generation farmer to 200 acres just outside the little community of Welcome, N.C."
A term that wasn’t even in our vocabulary a couple of months ago is now a way of life. Although drastic change hasn’t been any easy adjustment for any of us, it might be the most difficult for college athletes who are accustomed to being together almost every day.
For one member of the NC State football squad, however, social distancing has been no problem. In fact, he's been doing it every chance he's gotten for almost his entire life.
Wolfpack placekicker Christopher Dunn home sits about 100 miles due west of Carter-Finley Stadium. On a rural road outside of a little town, he honed his skills on a goalpost in his backyard that he welded together himself during his freshman year of high school.
Just a little further down the road, is where Dunn has spent most of his free time for as long as he can remember: Fritts Farm.
At Fritts Farm, social distancing isn’t a new phenomenon.
To call Fritts Farm a family farm would be a bit of an understatement.
"My great-great grandfather, David Thomas Fritts, Sr., purchased this land in the late 1800s and it has since been actively farmed solely by his descendants. Five generations have loved this land, sacrificed for it, labored upon it, and – most importantly in this day and time – have never sold an inch of it. Each generation instilled in the generation that followed the value of the family farm."
The main function of the farm is to raise organic black angus beef and hay – some of which goes to feed the cows and some of which is sold. Each year, the farm boasts anywhere from 50-100 heads of cattle to take care of.
"I grew up fishing in the pond, playing in the creeks, working in the fields and with the cows. I was initially drawn to it because what kid doesn’t love a tractor? Better yet, there was an Oliver tractor on the farm … and an antique truck that needed restoration. There were sheds and buildings to be explored and by exploring them, I learned a lot about the men and women who made this place special."
Since Dunn was a little boy, he's tagged along with his grandfather, David Martin, to help out on the farm. He might help work on the fence lines and the gates, bale hay or stack it in the barn, or just tinker with the tractors and equipment. Whenever he had time off, he would come back and help.
Since March, when COVID-19 brought the world as we know it to a standstill, Dunn has had plenty of time to help out. When he’s not attending virtual classes or working out, he's at the farm working with his grandfather.
You might ask why a college student would want to spend his free time doing what is often grueling work. "I just love doing it with my grandpa," Dunn says. "I love the memories we've made and are making together."
On the farm, it’s not unusual for him to spend hours at a time alone on a tractor - with nothing but cows in the acceptable six-foot social distancing limit. (Although sometimes, there is a little more close contact involved, especially when a cow needs some help delivering a calf - a job that is not for the faint of heart and one that Dunn has helped with numerous times).
A couple of weeks ago, he plowed 40 acres. Now he will work to cultivate it, 'disc' it down and then plant millet and sudangrass. Because those are summer crops, he may still be around to cut them a few times this summer as well, depending on when he is able to come back to Raleigh.
The haying is done between May and September. When it’s time to harvest, he helps bale hundreds of round and square bales. Then the bales – one at a time – have to be driven into the barn on a tractor and stacked. The square bales are backed in on a wagon and stacked in the top part of the barn.
He is also Fritts Farm’s resident mechanic. “My grandfather breaks the tractors and I fix them,” Dunn laughs.
When the schoolwork and the farm work is done, he loves to hunt. "It's a hunter's paradise. Each season offers wildlife for the sportsman in me."
It’s grueling work, but because it’s in his blood, Dunn loves it.
When he's not farming, Dunn continues to train diligently for the other important season in his life: football.
A second-team All-ACC choice each of the past two seasons, Dunn will enter his junior campaign ranked 11th in school history in career scoring, fifth in field goals, fourth in FG percentage and 10th in PATs made. He's never missed a PAT and has connected on his last 11 field goals - the fifth-longest streak in school history. A Lou Groza semifinalist last season, he is on track to set - and perhaps shatter - the school career record for field goals. He already set the NC State single-season scoring record in 2018.
That homemade field goal, which hadn't gotten much use since Dunn enrolled at NC State in January of 2018 – has come in pretty handy over the past two months (although he also works out at his former high school).
Because he trains in cycles of peaks, his kicking reps were low and then started cranking back up. "I want to peak at fall camp, take 3-4 days off, then train for season and peak during the season. Offseason, I train so I can peak during spring ball. I always want to be hitting my best points at important parts of season,” he says.
Following his classes online has been challenging for Dunn. "Out here in the sticks, the wireless service has been spotty," he laughs. "I've gotten locked out of class a couple of times here and there - sometimes I get logged out 4-5 times a class. Luckily the teachers record the classes and anything I miss, I can go back and watch."